Oklahoma State alum/über booster T. Boone Pickens understands why UConn donor Robert Burton is angry.
Pickens is a donor, too — and that’s putting it lightly. He’s poured nearly a quarter of a billion dollars into improving Oklahoma State’s athletic facilities and millions more into the university itself.
So, when it comes to the general happenings around his school, Pickens, like Burton, expects to be kept in the know.
“You always have time for people who are putting up the money. That just makes all the sense in the world,” Pickens said to the USA Today. “You can’t ignore those people. I mean, they’ve paid their money, and they’re entitled to be informed.
“You can’t spend all day every day talking to somebody about things. But I would just say, from a distance, that somebody should have talked to the guy and he never should have gotten to the spot where now he’s damned unhappy and he wants his money back.”
And that’s fair. Donor money can go into a variety of different areas within a university, or an athletic department. Whether a booster is donating $7 million, or $700 million, I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about informing them of the decisions being made with their money. After all, universities count on that generosity.
There is, however, a fine line between opinions and influence, and Pickens knows where that line is located.
“Did I play football? No. I was a pretty good basketball player, but I’m not on the level of evaluating coaches or players,” said Pickens. “At the same time, I have an opinion. And it doesn’t take but a minute to hear that. So yeah, I expect a little consideration in those things.”
This is where Burton misses the boat.
In his lengthy, self-indulgent letter to UConn AD Jeff Hathaway, Burton said, among other berating comments, that, “Your lack of response on either of these requests (in keeping Burton informed and allowing him to provide insight) tells me that you do not respect my point of view or value my opinion.”
Well, guess what? Burton isn’t an AD, so this is in no way his prerogative. He gets paid millions of dollars to be the CEO of a business, not to create football schedules and hire coaches. Burton may think he knows a thing or two about football, but I can guarantee you it’s nowhere near as much as Hathaway.
If Burton felt wronged or angry in any way, that’s fine. Stop donating and don’t ask for a refund. You don’t give someone a sweater for Christmas, and in a year when you find out they didn’t wear it, ask for it back.
I hope that there’s a point down the road where I’m making enough money that I can comfortably donate to my alma mater. I would love nothing more than to give back to the place that gave me so many great experiences.
That’s because a donation is a gift; one that sh0uldn’t be conditioned on influence.